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Conductor


Description

There are many types of bands. Small garage bands, swing bands, orchestras. The bigger they get, the more likely it is that a group will lose focus. A group of four punk rock players have a simpler time discussing issues like band members, tour dates, and finances, while an orchestra with 50 musicians need a spokesperson to act on their behalf. Conductors help solve this problem. They work with chamber orchestras, wind ensembles, concert bands, symphony orchestras, jazz bands, choirs, and orchestras which perform at operas and ballet.

Well-respected conductors may travel the world, acting as a guest conductor in concert halls around the world. The conductors may choose the groups' musical selections, audition musicians, organize rehearsals and schedule performances. Depending on the size of the band they lead, they may work in all facets of management, or they may work alongside an accountant and manager. Regardless of the size of the band, the conductor is required to be a supervisor, as well as an artist.

As such, a band leader must have a dynamic personality, and be organized, efficient, and driven. They are usually very good musicians themselves, who communicate well with individuals and groups. Conductors have thorough training regarding rhythm, phrasing, and dynamics, but all develop their own style of working with their musicians. They usually come up with unique ways of expressing directions to the musicians, telling them when to get louder, quieter, faster, or whatever the music and the mood calls for at the time. It is up to the conductor to ensure that the musicians all stay in time, follow the music at the right speed, and arrive at the finish together. This means they have to be able to hear each instrument independent of the others as they play. This could involve listening for 50 different instrument voices, and loud, rousing performances can leave a conductor exhausted with mental and physical strain and effort.

Conductors do more than just wave a little stick in the air. They are like train conductors - without their knowledge and ability to get the vehicle going at just the right speed, the locomotive might never make it out of the station.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Conductors must be quite confident, and inspirational to others. They should be flexible, sensitive, and caring. They should be take-charge kind of people, who enjoy controlling situations and coming up with creative solutions when tackling problems. They need to love all types of music, and be able to play a number of instruments, read complicated music, and have a love of art and history. They need to be physically fit, have a lot of stamina, as leading a large group of musicians can be quite exhausting.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Select music that is appropriate to the talents, abilities and strengths of the band
  • Study music intensely to learn the music in detail
  • Develop a particular interpretation of the music
  • Use gestures to shape the music and to keep the musicians in time
  • Audition musicians for their group
  • Schedule, prepare for, and direct rehearsals.
  • Meet with composers to discuss interpretations of their work
  • Perform administrative duties
  • Meet with soloists for extra sessions
  • A conductor's tasks will vary, depending on the size and nature of the group. Generally, though, each day is spend listening to and analyzing music, and perfecting the group's interpretation of the music. Some time will be spent traveling to and from concert sites, as well as in meetings with other band administrators, venue owners, and the musicians themselves.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Conductors can work in a number of environments. They can be found in public and private schools, high schools, university and colleges. They may work with small ensembles, as well as large orchestras. They work in concert halls and practice studios. They will work long hours, especially when preparing for a major performance. They may travel for concerts, either as a guest conductor, or accompanying their orchestra on tour, all over the world.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Conductors have a few options open to them. They may choose to become teachers, and find work with universities, colleges, or within the public school system. They can teach music privately, as well. They can tour the globe as guest conductors with bands and orchestras. They can become composers, arrangers, or musicians themselves.
 

  Educational Paths  
Conductors need quite a few skills. They should be able to read music, understand the role of most instruments and tempo. They need to learn rules of conducting, and they should understand the standard repertoire of great composers. Usually, conductors obtain this knowledge in university, although it is possible to attend a conservatory. The university route can be thorough, starting with a bachelor's program in music, followed by a master's degree in music, and sometimes with a doctoral degree in music.

It is also a good idea to observe some conductors in action. You may want to ask to sit in on a few orchestra rehearsals or maybe assist in conducting the school band to get some experience.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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